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What Are the Different Types of Nurses?

A nurse in blue scrubs poses inside a hospital

The nursing field offers a spectrum of professional opportunities ranging from Registered Nurse to Nurse Practitioner to Chief Nursing Officer. But what are the different types of nurses and nursing careers available to you?

To help you better understand all the career options available under the nursing umbrella, check out the following information on several types of in-demand nursing positions, and learn more about each role.

Registered Nurse

In hospitals nationwide, you’ll find that registered nurses (RN) account for the majority of the nursing professionals on any given shift. Many of the nurses you’ll encounter are registered nurses (RNs) who have earned either their associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited higher education institution.

Employers will often give preference to hiring RNs with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees. Regardless of education, all nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain licensure and practice in any medical facility.

As an RN, your day-to-day responsibilities can include assessing patients, administering and monitoring medications, wound care, bathing, feeding, dressing, precise record-keeping, and maintaining the patients’ overall health and safety while in your care. Hospitals and medical facilities may differ slightly in their policies on workload, but patient load per nurse is generally capped at around five patients per shift.

As an RN, you also can work in conjunction with medical techs, doctors, surgeons, counselors, administrative professionals, and others to deliver comprehensive care to every patient trusted to your care.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for RNs is about $71,730 per year, and the industry is projected to grow about 15% from 2016 to 2026.

Nurse Practitioner

Another type of nurse that you might be familiar with is a nurse practitioner (NP). NPs hold a professional title that places them above RNs in terms of capabilities and responsibilities, but below medical doctors.

To become a nurse practitioner, you must earn a master’s degree in nursing from an accredited program. Nurse practitioners typically select a specialty in areas such as Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Pediatrics, and Psychiatric Mental Health.

NPs treat a variety of patients as both primary and specialty care providers. With much greater autonomy than RNs, in many states, NPs can assess, treat, and prescribe medications without consulting a physician.

However, when necessary, nurse practitioners consult or work with a variety of doctors and healthcare professionals.

Nurse Educators

Nurse educators have a unique position among the different types of nurses because they work in the hospital system to provide in-service training at varying levels of expertise.

As an educator, you can help other nurses meet their annual continuing education requirements, provide specialized training that allows registered nurses (RNs) to climb the clinical ladder, and support orientation efforts for graduate nurses and nurses seeking to move into a different specialty.

Nurse educators typically hold a master’s or doctorate degree and have years of hands-on nursing experience.

According to data collected by PayScale.com, nurse educators see an average salary of about $74,324.

Nurse Leaders

Nursing offers a steady career track for professional growth and development — from head nurse up to chief nursing officer.

The opportunity to advance into leadership positions like these is possible with extensive nursing experience, an advanced education, an expansive professional network of nurses, and the willingness to move to another hospital or a new city.

In addition to being an expert in their field, your role as a nurse leader would require you to understand the business aspect of the nursing field: staffing; team-building; budgeting; regulatory issues; and the other practicalities of managing a unit, a department, or an entire hospital-wide nursing practice.

Some of the qualities of standout nurse leaders include integrity, emotional capacity, social intelligence, and effective communication skills, according to the journal Nursing Management.

Chief Nursing Officer

Chief nursing officers are high-level nurses who generally work in hospitals, directing nursing activities in accordance with hospital procedures. They work to ensure strict safety policies to ensure that patients are protected, and they work with hospital leadership to develop new patient care strategies or ensure to existing procedures are up to par.

As a CNO, you might be responsible for duties such as managing staff levels, developing and executing emergency plans, overseeing budgets, and planning for supplies and equipment purchases. You also might participate in or direct nursing training exercises, orientations, and educational programs.

CNOs are expected to have at least master’s-level training in nursing, although your DNP can help make you a more appealing candidate for these positions. According to data compiled by PayScale.com, CNOs earn a salary of about $127,000. According to the BLS, healthcare manager positions as a whole are expected to grow by 20 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Healthcare Organization CEO

Another possible DNP career is CEO of a healthcare organization. While many CEOs arrive at the job from a more traditional corporate background, healthcare organizations may prefer to hire candidates with a high-level medical background. In many DNP programs, you might have the opportunity to supplement your nursing knowledge with business courses.

As a CEO, you’re responsible for overseeing all aspects of an organization, including staff, finances, and strategic planning. The CEO works closely with stakeholders and other business leaders, gathering outside perspectives and expertise, but is responsible for making the ultimate decisions.

CEO salaries vary significantly according to the type and size of the organization, but the average salary is around $164,000. The high salary makes CEO positions appealing to many qualified applicants, so competition is stiff — but with an advanced degree in nursing, you may be able to set yourself apart from the competition.

Earn your degree and qualify for many types of nurse jobs.

Whether you’re ready to start your nursing career or push it to the highest echelons, your advancement starts with education. Earning the right degree can give you the nursing skills that may make the difference between getting hired and getting passed by.

With the right background and a will to succeed, you can reach your professional goals in any of the dynamic, fulfilling career paths listed above — and more.

To learn how you can advance your nursing career to the highest levels, check out Maryville University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree and see how your DNP can take your career to new heights.

Sources:

American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, “CRNAs and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists”
Maryville University, “Online Doctor of Nursing Practice”
Nursing Management, “Standout Nurse Leaders…What’s in the Research?”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
PayScale.com, “Average Nurse Educator Salary”
PayScale.com, “Average Chief Nursing Officer (CNO Salary)”